Valverdón, Spain

Photo: Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa

The Douro Valley has long been one of your favorite wine regions in Europe. It straddles the Douro, the third-longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. Its well-irrigated riverbanks are ideal for growing almonds, olives, and grapes. While its terraced vineyards thrive with the area’s hot summers, dry winters, and protective mountains. But most people assume that this famed valley belongs solely to Portugal. Not true.

The Douro is called the Duero in Spain, where it originates. Castile and León sits across Portugal’s northeast border. Spain’s largest autonomous community is famous for its historical sites. They include eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 500 castles, 400 museums, and 12 grand cathedrals. These fascinating spots are surrounded by endless vineyards.

Salamanca is the perfect spot to start exploring the Duero Valley. The region’s westernmost province is dotted with Vettone—a pre-Roman culture—archaeological sites. Its villages are tiny. Most are home to less than 300 people. Its vineyards form the Tierra del Vino de Zamora wine region. They produce Albillo and Verdejo, Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes. While in Valverdón, a beautiful Dominican convent has been converted into a lovely wine hotel.

Photo: Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa

Hacienda Zorita lies about 140 miles northwest of Madrid along the Tormes, a branch of the Duero. The 700-year-old stone building was a hospice house, a monastery, and a flour mill in its former lives. Christopher Columbus was even a guest when he began plotting new routes to the Indies. But in the 1950s, a fire tore through the riverfront property. It was left in ruins for more than 40 years. Then plans were made to restore the original charm to the property. It was turned into a wine hotel and a spa in the process.

Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa is now surrounded by cork, holm oak, and olive trees. Forty celdas, suites, and villas fill both La Casa Grande, the main house, and smaller buildings. The celdas were the monks’ rooms. Their Classic Nouveau decor features exposed beams, wooden furniture, and rustic blankets. Suites have additional space with a chill-out area. While luxurious villas have their own plunge pools. There’s a wine fridge in each of them.

Then there’s the relaxing spaces and the food. The Wine & Olive Spa is more like a wellness temple. It’s in the hacienda’s oldest building, a former watermill from 780, that sits on a bridge over the river. It has an outdoor jacuzzi and wine-based therapies. Two long pools are hidden among cypress trees. A glass of chilled Verdejo can be delivered there after you finish your spa treatment. More wine can be found in the Wine Bar and the 1,500-bottle cellar. Be sure to do the tasting that’s included with your room rate. You can also order a bottle of your favorite wine during dinner in Zorita’s Kitchen. The tasting menu is sure to include Ibérico Pata Negra (cured ham) and handmade balsamic vinegar. Whether it’s the Douro or the Duero, this valley remains a favorite.


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